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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Thornton Heath drama group given grant for play about gun and knife crime

Croydon Advertiser
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A GROUP of keen drama students, tucked away in a rehearsal room in Thornton Heath, could hold a key to changing attitudes to gun and knife crime.

They are part of an ambitious project launched by the African Youth Development Association (AYDA) based in Day Lewis House, in Bensham Lane.

Jumanae Bailey and Lauren Brooks-Mills act out a row between a teacher and a pupil 

With the support of a £2,500 grant from Croydon Council, AYDA has taken on drama teacher Sheila Atieno, to use her skills to help those taking part to examine their attitudes to society and life.

In the longer term Ms Atieno intends to build on the acting skills of the dozen or so youngsters involved at present to produce a play on the dangers of getting involved with guns and knives.

The ambition is to have this performed at schools and youth groups to bring the message home to a much wider audience.

Ms Atieno, who is also writing the scripts for the group, said: "We want to help young people to understand the wider issues involved with the crimes through the play and hopefully change their attitudes."

That process has already started with the existing small group working on a variety of sketches looking at bullying and building respect.

Ms Atieno said: "Through improvisation and scripts I have written, we are working on both the good and the bad ways of dealing with situations which might arise between young people, and between young people and adults.

"It involves building respect and explaining 'you don't speak to people like that'."

Ms Atieno also believes that taking part in the classes is also helping develop the individual characters of the youngsters taking part.

She said: "It is all about building confidence – that is what drama does.

"It helps develop their social skills and become more confident about talking about problems."

Lauren Brooks-Mills, one of the youngsters taking part in the course, said: "We are learning about how to talk to people of all ages and about how behave appropriately."

At the end of school holidays, it is intended to run the classes after school and possibly at weekends and AYDA is looking for more youngsters to join up.

Anyone interested should ring 0208 239 0009 or e-mail

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